Franklin Countys First News

Headstones being restored in Center Burying Ground

Gravestones in the Center Burying Ground in Farmington are being restored by mason and cemetery preservationist Albert Stehle.

FARMINGTON - Why the whir of a generator's motor, the many hoses winding across the grass, the clank of metal shovels striking granite curbing, the "new" slate footstones appearing among the rows of historic gravestones in Center Burying Ground behind Farmington's old Courthouse this June?

Life-long stone mason and trained cemetery preservationist Albert Stehle is completing restoration of the cemetery's dangerously leaning and broken historic headstones. The work was approved by Farmington's Selectboard last fall. Stone epoxy, Lithomex stone repair for cracks and seams, Natural Hydraulic Lime for setting stones in bases, and D/2 Biologic stone cleaner are being used; no damaging power washing, no acid, and no bleach.

Among Farmington's "founding fathers" resting here is Samuel Butterfield 1738-1808 and his wife Hannah Chandler Butterfield 1742-1814. When visiting Samuel's beautifully engraved gravestone in Center Burying Ground last fall, his matching footstone was found on the ground behind it, face up. Probing behind adjoining headstones revealed that, sometime in the past, all had been buried directly behind their headstone, a travesty as they were purchased by family members as part of their loved ones eternal memorials. Thus, as part of Center Burying Ground's preservation effort, slate footstones are being excavated, cleaned and reset.

A headstone is reset.

Ben and Natalie Butler's Farmington town history notes that Samuel Butterfield's family was one of eight from Dunstable, Mass., who came to the Sandy River township in November of 1781, traveling by wagons to Monmouth, through Lewiston, then on horseback, residing in a dwelling of elm bark covering forked posts that winter. He built the first framed house in Franklin County, which was later the home of son Moses Butterfield, and donated the adjoining lot for the cemetery bearing his surname. Early deeds specify "preserving and always excepting the burying ground as now fenced and occupied."

In 1800, Samuel built the lovely brick house now home to Skowhegan Savings Bank. Son Col. James Butterfield later resided here and his is one of several leaning and broken veteran's stones at Butterfield Cemetery, adjacent to Hannaford's parking lot. Several Butterfield Cemetery veterans headstones will also be repaired, continuing last fall's restoration work initiated by Sandy River Genealogical Society members Flossie Dere and Deborah Tripp Probert.

The Coronovirus has prevented Sandy River Genealogical and local Historical Societies from holding meetings and fund-raising events summer 2020, but if you are interested in helping "hands on" or financially, as an individual or as a group, to insure preservation of these historic settlers' burying grounds, please contact the Farmington Town Office. Your assistance is welcomed.

The resting place of Samuel Butterfield,

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6 Responses »

  1. How wonderful to have this history restored. Last year I found my 3rd great grandmother's stone, it was in 3 pieces on the ground. It broke my heart. I was happy to see it repaired and reset, I hope someone will look at it in the future and appreciate it.

  2. I hope that the Selectmen will realize that it is very IMPORTANT NOT to let weel-meaning but inexperienced groups to come into ANY of our cemeteries and clean the stones with BLEACH! I stopped them then called the Town Office. They were upset. But I was MORE upset.
    Like tearing down statues, this activity can destroy history. Not THEIR history, but OUR history.

  3. Thanks to all involved with these projects. The Butterfield stone is beautiful and clean.

  4. I am so glad the town found the trust money for this. The state of the cemetary had been brought to their attention several times over the last few years. As with everything, money is always the issue. I am delighted to see the changes he is making.

  5. Today's internet access makes it easy to take proper care of our ancient, historic graveyards & headstones. Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA) cleaning brochure: https://moca-me.org/cleaning-gravestones
    & graveyard preservation guidelines: https://moca-me.org/restoring-old-cemeteries
    Also, MOCA's facebook page has over 3,000 followers!: https://www.facebook.com/groups/moca.me

  6. Nancy, I'm confused by your comment about people using bleach to clean cemetery stones. When you wrote," "I stopped them then called the Town Office," what "inexperienced groups" were you referring to? I know both these folks in the cemetery are experienced in proper cleaning and repair techniques as encouraged and taught to the public by the Maine Old Cemetery Association (www.moca-me.org).

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